Apathy’s Plague



altUS (Pal Telegraph—Rachael Rudolph)-Knowing the past sheds light and provides understanding of how we came to our current situation.  However, answers to and solutions for our problems today do not lie in the past.  This is especially the case when the past we learn of and the narrative taught in our school curricula is an idealized one.  We can take our celebration of Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights Movement as an example.

Dr. King, the message he conveyed, and the movement his person symbolized should be remembered and honored; and, his contribution to history was both local and global.  He inspired a generation in America and others around the world.  His words are often quoted by movements and people that are making their case for freedom, justice and equality.  Absent from the discussion and the celebrations are the role played and contribution made by the Black Panthers. 

There has not been one successful movement throughout history where both violent and nonviolent struggle did not coexist.  Yet we teach our children the idealized historical narrative, which distorts their reality.  This is why we do not learn from the past and why mistakes are repeated.  Let our past, both the positive and the negative, be our guide in the present to ensure we have in fact learned, but do not let it define the step we take now. 

Our current situation defines the context in which we are currently living and the words we use.  To use language, concepts, and ideas of the past, regardless of whether one is from the right, left or some combination thereof, limits a movement’s growth.   And if there is to be change for the better, then the voices of the people must rise and action must be taken.   

The time is coming; it can be felt on the streets, in the stores and gas stations, and on travels around the world.  There is a common theme that pervades regardless of whether one is living in America, sitting in shops in Canada, Germany, Russia or London; or walking the mountains, streets, towns and villages in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

Mass discontent permeates the urban and rural divide, the generational cleavages, and time and space.  It is being caused by disbelief that solutions can be provided by the existing governmental structures of the countries in which we are living, and belief that those elected in our respective governments and their policies do not reflect our beliefs and/or serve our interests.

I recall sitting on top the mountain in one of Guatemala’s poorest mountainous region.  We stopped at this one particular spot because it overlooked many of the other villages left neglected by the government.  The gentleman explained, “You see that village over there; many were just recently killed in mudslides.  There was no warning.  Men, women and children were just completely wiped out.”  His tone was nonchalance and not said in a way to shock the listener.  Mudslides are a common occurrence for many in the mountainous areas of Central America because shelter is inadequate and little or no funds are provided by the government. 

In another area, a more politically active gentleman explained that, “it is intentional on the part of the government.  To suppress and keep the people in such a state of poverty will limit the nature of resistance, regardless of whether it is violent or nonviolent.  People cannot and will not raise their voice and fight for something more if they are struggling daily just to put food on the table.  There are some that will fight though to ensure the government does continue to focus some attention on the area.”  Later that night we drifted off to sleep in our hotel room, listening to distant gun shots and explosions.

In some recent articles, following the beginning of the Tunisian Revolution, writers were questioning whether similar people’s movements would emerge around the world.  Some came to the conclusion that it is unlikely.  The reason given was the very same one explained above.   

Is it really the case that the masses will not take to the streets because they are struggling to put food on the table?  To struggle takes time, and that is limited for most.  Many in the lower socio-economic classes lack time because they are struggling to make ends meet, but this is not the case for those in the middle and upper socio-economic classes.  Maybe their lack of time has more to do with a lack of concern? 

I remember asking one of my classes if they were familiar with the news stories on the FBI arrests of anti-war activists or censorship of Wikileaks.  With the exception of one or two of the students, none were even aware of the stories.  Concerning Wikileaks, some even questioned what they were and why it mattered if they were censored.  The students went on to explain that unless they are made to read the news, then they do not follow what is taking place at home or abroad.  The reasons:  they simply just did not care; they did not believe that what was taking place had any impact on their life; and/or, that they could do anything about it. The latter, I think, has more to do with it.

Some of these students are the sweetest and most kind hearted individuals, so I cannot believe that they are just so cold and self-interested that they could care so little about others.  Further and more in-depth discussion helped to shed light on another thing prevalent within the larger society in which we are living, especially here in the United States. 

Today’s generation neither sees nor believes in the interconnectedness of their lives with those around the world.  Before the academic argument to the problem was that if people only connected more than there would be greater concern for what is taking place outside of their own little bubble.  This is partly true, but it also takes more than connection and interactive dialogue in order to bridge the gap.  It also takes education.   Our education curricula, at least in the United States, are too focused on teaching and mastering the so-called skill or proficiency oriented behavior.  Students are being taught to be robots programed for regurgitation of the narrative provided, rather than on how to think and develop their own voice.   

If the reader has reached the conclusion and is now pondering the point, running various different incidents taking place around the world and in your life through your mind, then the article has done what was intended.  What we believe and hold dear in our heart, minds and lives are relevant to what is taking place in the world around us.  We cannot continue to dismiss things, places and people as irrelevant.  Without a voice, mass discontent will continue to persist and apathy will continue to grow.  Eventually the explosion will take place, but not soon enough.  Let history serve as a guide to make today’s generation think of and where they are going tomorrow.  Teach them to question and not accept the narrative of only one side.  Truth is determined by the eye of the beholder, and his or her position within society.  Will you continue to allow others to define your truth or will you make your own?  Will apathy or action define the next path to be taken?   


About Author

Comments are closed.